Tuesday, July 06, 2004

In James 3:17(ESV) it says:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Now this is interesting. I have to stop a moment here and wonder about why anyone would insist on using a nearly 400 yr old translation. In place of "open to reason" the KJV has "easy to be entreated". Seeing the modern English translation of this verse really helps answer a question that has been at my mind for a long time about understanding the spiritual things of God. The Greek word here is eupeithes, meaning "able to be persuaded".
The question is whether God's wisdom is in opposition to reason or with it. It is the age old "juxtaposition" of faith and reason.
In I Cor we read that the natural man (unregenerate man) does not recieve the things of God, because they are discerned through God's Spirit. We read:
1Co 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
Human wisdom - wisdom from above - reason. Christians have paired human wisdom with reason for many years. Yet the Bible compares wisdom from above with reason. I acknowledge that both types of wisdom are tied to reason. So what is the difference?
It is the same difference between the atheist and the theist. The one reasons in a negative way, that only allows for what is seen and negates the value of what has not been proven. The other reasons in a positive way, that places value in that which has not been proven. Productive science to me is one that dares to imagine, and thinks positively. Inventions are born of thinking that allows for what is not apparent.
(I do not intend to say that an atheist cannot invent, but certainly his method of reasoning toward God is not amenable to invention, should he apply it in a broader sense. But the positive force in the atheist is that of humanism. He speaks out one side of the mouth in disproving God, and out the other in exalting the human condition.)
Does a verse come to mind? How about Hebrews 11:1?
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
And this answers the question. Faith in God undergirds Christian reasoning. Skepticism toward God is behind atheistic reasoning. And further, Christian faith is founded upon His revealed will in the Bible.
So then the wisdom from above is tied to Christian reasoning that is rooted in faith in God as He is revealed to man through His prophets and apostles.
Human wisdom is tied to humanistic reasoning that ignores God and places man and his ideas at the center.
Many Christians imagine a faith in which rules of logic do not apply. But this is not God-honoring faith. So long as the Bible is handled consistently James 3:17 teaches us that we should be open to reason that might contradict our long held opinion or doctrine. Appealing to a mystical notion of disconnected unreasoned spiritual ideas is not an option. In fact, such a notion is responsible for the type of doctrine and thinking that dishonor God and His word.
Other verses emphasize the role of reason in faith and doctrine as well:
1Pe 3:14-16 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, (15) but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; (16) yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Many who debate doctrine in the name of orthodoxy are guilty of violating verse 16.

2Ti 2:24-26 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, (25) correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (26) and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Wisdom from above... is open to reason. It must be. The Spirit convicts but we have a duty to stand for the plain truths of the Scripture.

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